Cougars and foxes

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, but that’s not for lack of training more a lack of time.  Here’s what we’ve been doing….

Miles:

Just continues to get better and better with his adaptability to new environments and faster and faster each time we run it seems.  It’s to the point that I do not feel like we need to work together every day to maintain our skills.  In fact, he seems to be enjoying his break from trialing and frequent training because when we do work, it’s much more special.  He has become my solid dog which just blows my mind to think about really.  I never have any doubts any more when I take him out to play agility no matter where we are doing it….he’s just plain and simply a rock star.  I think he has really just been reaping the rewards of me taking Rue to as many places as possible.  Where it used to take him a run or two of looking around while working, he now is able to enter a new place confidently and work with me without concern.  This to me is simply amazing!!

While up visiting my mom over Thanksgiving I brought the dogs to a drop in class at an indoor facility that I had brought Miles to last Christmas for some rental time and run-throughs.  Last time we were there I spent a good portion of our time just playing with him in the ring and letting him explore.  I didn’t do more than jumps and tunnels and maybe some weaves or an aframe here and there.  His attitude going into the class this time was a stark comparison.  He was confident and excitedly happy.  He worked very well for me, ran fast, and didn’t give a darn about the people, the other dogs, or the teeter.  I just love when I can really *see* the improvements he’s made.

As far as my goals to improve my handling skills and speeding up the dogwalk and table, well I guess we haven’t been working specifically on the latter two items.  Silvia had suggested that I try retraining him to a running dogwalk….or if nothing else just work on running across the board to build confidence in that piece.  This is something I want to start doing, but I think I’ll wait until after the Spring trial season is over.  The weather and lack of daylight have not allowed me to do any of the daily training that is required for this type of retrain and I don’t really want to do it in the middle of heavy trial season, so I think it will be a great Summer project for us 🙂

This past weekend we attended a seminar with Carrie Jones for handling work.  I worked Rue in the morning and Miles in the afternoon (more on Rue’s stuff in a bit).  For the first time in a while I felt like I really learned some valuable tools from a seminar.  This makes me very excited to work with her again at the Awesome Paws camp in February!  My big take home from this seminar was the importance of deceleration which is something that I really have a hard time doing.  Get me running and I really don’t want to slow down 😉  However, the difference in Miles’ path on course was amazing.  The whole thing was much more smooth and it didn’t slow him down at all, sweet! 

In keeping up with my reading of Jane Savoie’s Ribbon’s book, I’ve been continuing to work on my verbal affirmations and visualization.  To add more color into my visualizations, I’ve decided that Miles is a Cougar….slender and agile, yet extremely powerful with the ability to jump high and far.  He runs extremely fast, yet quietly, and is lethal to the competition.  Sounds good, eh? 

Rue:

Oy, this little girl sure does keep me busy!  I’ll start by saying that I *think* she’s worked through her teeter issue.  I’ve been on a quest to get her on as many different teeters as possible as well as continuing to not have her stop at the end of the board.  I really think that was the major part of the puzzle.  As I’ve said before, Rue doesn’t like to be surprised by things….if she thinks something should be one way and it turns out to be different, she is quite offended.  Granted this is something she needs to work out for herself because there are going to continue to be instances when she guesses incorrectly.  I think that will just come with more experience and more exposures.  By continuing to bring her to as many places as possible and to experience as many different pieces of equipment as she can will only boost her confidence and her ability to recover. 

What amazes me is how she always keeps such a straight face…a poker face really.  This makes it very difficult to read her and continues to cause me surprise when she ends up showing her avoidance/stress behavior.  With this being so seemingly unpredictable it’s taking me longer to figure out earlier on so I can help her before she reacts.  What’s interesting too is how she can portray stress in totally opposite ways…sometimes it’s that she trots around the course or stops to sniff one spot on the ground whereas other times she will go visit people or start frantically running and sniffing around the ring.  Perhaps it’s just a reflection of her overall motivation/confidence level at those times whether she stresses up or stresses down.  It probably doesn’t matter which response she has as long as I can recognize it.

At the seminar on Saturday, Rue did amazingly well and worked happily for her tug all morning.  Her first run was a little stressy and she left me to visit the spectators and her favorite canine boyfriend.  Carrie initially had me try just running away and calling her which didn’t work (doesn’t usually, but I gave it a whirl), so I ended up having her sit so she could refocus and then Carrie held her as I ran down to the start of the sequence.  I recalled her and then started the sequence.  Little muffin found the weaves along the way so quickly completed the set of 12 before joining me for the sequence.  This time she was completely successful.  So something to keep in mind to try next time she starts visiting folks during class 🙂

Yesterday I got together with a friend to train some short jumping sequences.  This is someone she doesn’t see often and it was interesting to see that he added a lot of pressure for her.  Not only he, but the teeter was in the arena too.  She’s trained in the arena only a handful of times and it’s always been more difficult for her…the added lure of the wood chips for one is very distracting for her.  We’ve only ever done jumps and tunnels in there…maybe some buja board stuff when she was little, but the amount of time she’s been in there is not a lot.  And she’s never seen the teeter in there, ever.  I started working her with her favorite tug toy (the same one we used in the seminar and the same one I have used in class with success), but she was very distracted.  I’d get her engaged and then start a sequence, but after the first or second obstacle she’d start to sniff.  She actually hid in the tunnel and chewed on wood chips at one point, sigh.  After not being able to reingage her, I elected to carry her out to her crate.  I then brought Miles out and worked him excitedly before returning to give Rue another shot.  This time was better, but I still lost her to sniffing during a more difficult sequence.  Again I carried her out.  I felt bad because I didn’t really know what I could do to help her, but at the same time I was getting frustrated and that’s only going to cause her more stress.  So carrying her out seemed to be the best option.  I was going to just end it there, but after talking it over decided to remove the teeter from the picture.  I took her back in and got her engaged with play.  We played for a little longer than normal and then started the sequence.  She was definitely better, but still got distracted.  I was able to end her tug game while she was still engaged and then wanted to see what would happen if I used food.  HUGE improvement.  I worked some more difficult sequences than before and she was still able to run pretty fast and I did not lose her.  I even had my friend stand in the middle of the sequence and she did just fine.  I was pleased with this data for sure.  She was able to motivate for food just fine and she was also able to work past the pressure of the arena, the woodchips and a “judge”.  I probably should have brought the teeter back in, but admittedly I was pretty much whiped out 😉 

As far as my visualization and affirmations for the lil’ one, well she’s a red fox.  Resourceful, clever, sly, quick, and adaptable, yet independent and somewhat cunning.   I’m certain my little red fox will grow to enjoy working more as a pack in time……

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